Monday, August 12, 2013

The Baker's Dozen #4...Melanie Voltz from Melotov Records

I first came into contact with Melanie Voltz a couple years back when Great Reversals recorded “To the Ends of the Earth” and we were trying to find a label who might be interested in putting it out for us. My friend Will from Xerxes suggested I contact Mel. What I appreciated about her right away was her honesty…”I love the record, but if you guys can’t tour, I gotta pass.” During that process I got tons of wishy washy “Well, I just have a lot of other stuff on my plate right now” type responses, so to have her call it straight was something I respected. Since then she has been super supportive of us, distroing our record, helping my guitar players’ other band get a show in Cali when they were on tour, etc.

Since starting Melotov, she has built it into one of the most diverse, quality d.i.y. labels around, releasing records from screamy bands like Capacities Beau Navire, and Calculator, as well as covering the heavier, grittier side of things with bands like Ghostlimb, Bone Dance, and Globe & Beast. 

It was a pleasure to talk to her about Melotov, and I look forward to her future output; as she’s always putting out bands I either already love, or introducing me to new stuff I wind up loving. 

Describe how you stumbled into the punk and hardcore community. When did you know it was probably going to become a permanent fixture in your life?

Me "stumbling" into punk and hardcore makes it seem like I woke up one day and instantly started loving that type of music. Embarrassingly, it was a slow ascent from shreddy death metal nonsense into music that meant more than just showing off their fretboard wizardry. Going to my first local punk show at the tender age of 15 solidified my residence in the punk/hardcore community. That overwhelming and enveloping sense of unity; being able to be on stage and sing with the band and other diehards was (and still is) the coolest thing about punk/hardcore. At a metal show, it's almost as if the bands take pride in having that holier-than-thou separation between stage and kids.

What could have possibly prompted you to think it would be a good idea to start a money pit (record label)?

I'm masochistic.

When you consider signing/working with bands, how do you balance your own personal feelings towards the band and their music with what you see as the potential for the thing to actually sell a few copies and for you to recoup your money? Which generally takes precedence?

I won't compromise the artistic integrity of the label or risk exploiting a band for their "it" factor in order to turn a profit. It's why I started this label in the first place. I want to release what I like, regardless of genre, and what I don't particularly care for, I will politely pass on or recommend to another label. Touring and promoting and all the DIY grassroots methods of developing a band are what actually move units, not solely what is "in" right now because honestly, trends in music come and go and hardcore isn't exempt from that (what happened to all that wigger-core, right?). I don't want Melotov to be pigeonholed into one particular type of genre.

What gets you more stoked…..getting YOUR copies of a record in from the plant, or hearing the BANDS reaction to getting THEIR records from the plant?

I am WAY more stoked on hearing the bands reaction to getting their records from the plant. Globe and Beast made a Vine when they (finally) got their wax in, and it was the funniest thing ever. They were so excited and I love that. I like to make people happy.

In your experiences, what are the best places to press vinyl/get your jackets and inserts printed, and what are the worst places? Why?

I don't want to bad-mouth any companies because I don't want to burn any bridges but I can say that Pirates Press, Gotta Groove Records, & Bill Smith Custom Records have all been joys to work with. Imprint for jackets and inserts also has great turnaround time and good customer service. Also, Hellfish and Upstate Merch rule too for their turn around and customer service.

The design and packaging for your releases is consistently really awesome, from the Ghostlimb die cut to The Banner picture disc, the sweet color for the Capacities vinyl, etc. I'm curious what labels would you say inspire you in terms of how they approach design and packaging, and is that end of it something you handle yourself, something you let the bands manage, a combo of both?

Thank you! I think packaging is almost as important as the music because it's really what helps make collecting records such a unique and personal experience. I feel that's the main reason it's had such a solid comeback. However, I can't take the credit for the designs because I mainly leave that up to the band. I don't want to stifle anyone's creativity so we brainstorm ideas and then work out what is most realistic to do. Vitriol Records has the coolest packaging of any label though, they are a definite point of inspiration. That Graf Orlock "Doombox" design is ridiculous. And then again with their 7" where Justin actually shot holes into the record jacket to go with the theme. He was the mastermind behind the die cut for the Ghostlimb record too. To me, art is a very personal experience so I'd rather not interfere with the band's expression. Obviously I have limits, but I feel I'm pretty good at always trying to find a way to accomplish what they want.

Your fairy god mother grants your wish and you get to put out a split with any two bands on the planet. Who shares the wax and why?

A Cursed/Gaza split would be so absolutely fucking cool. Since MLIW has reunited, I just need Cursed to hop on that train and I can die a happy 17 year old kid again. Runner up: Pantera/Hope Conspiracy.

I remember a while ago you posted something about applying for a grant for the label, I think it may have been a grant for female entrepreneurs or something along those lines, and I remember thinking it was really cool because aside from the Canadian government helping to fund that last Cursed record (can the U.S. govt start funding seminal hardcore bands please?) I've never really seen a label attempt anything like that. So my question is, how did the grant process go and what other tricks do you have up your sleeve in terms of expanding Melotov and taking over the world?

Unfortunately, I do not remember this hahaha. I may have mentioned it because I HAVE looked into it, but I haven't applied for any grants. I've gone to the Small Business Development Center in my city for guidance, which I recommend that every entrepreneur do because I gained a lot of insight about different methods of funding, but everything I've invested into the label has been from my own pocket. I have a business plan written and have set appointments with loan officers to help grow the business, but with interest being high and the economy still unstable, it didn't feel like a good financial move. It's less risky to develop credit terms with your manufactures and pay a monthly fee for their service, which is what I started doing. This way, you can grow at a steady pace while developing credit which can eventually help on future loans. A grant is different from a loan, but I haven't had the patience to read the fine print on all that yet haha. Been too busy churning out the wax!

Talk about the most frustrating and the most rewarding things about running a label.

The most frustrating part would have to be delays and missing deadlines. You can plan everything to a T, but nothing is ever perfect and so you have to get creative. It's why we made a limited run of tapes for the Old Wounds/Trenchfoot split. The 7"s weren't going to be done on time and I needed them to have something physical on tour since both bands on that split were touring together. The tapes did well and didn't deter people from purchasing the vinyl as well. The most rewarding things would be positive reviews on a record either told to you in person or in print, and the tangible end result. It's so cool getting a shipment in from the pressing plant and seeing why all your hard work was worth it.

For people who are considering jumping in and starting a label, what’s the one essential piece of advice you would give them?

You need to give it your all and believe in it so that others will believe in you too. You get out of something what you put into it and if this is something you want to make a career, you better treat it like it. Take calculated risks and in times of doubt, just reflect on all you've done and how good it felt when you accomplished it. 

Obviously you love every record you put out or you wouldn’t spend thousands of dollars on them, but let’s be real here; what’s the one record from your catalog that you listen to the most/that has the most value for you and why?
C'mon Scobie that's like me asking you to pick your favorite child! I've always flirted with the idea of starting a sleeve featuring artwork for all my releases because I love everyone I work with. If I only had the money... I will say that one record I LOVE that I wish more people knew about is the Deadhead 10". Those dudes write killer, dark riffs and it rules so hard. Check it out:

The Tidal Sleep!? I know last year there were plans to do a U.S. release of their second e.p., but as of late I haven't seen or heard anything. Is that still happening or nada?

I love the Tidal Sleep and those guys have something incredibly solid going on. I would still love to work with them, but at that moment, it wasn't financially feasible to do a US release of a record I could've just distributed instead and then do a new release for them. We tried working out a split label release with 50 Year Storm (Jon from Beau Navire's label), but it just wasn't working out for us in terms of timing and finances. I'm still absolutely 100% open to working with The Tidal Sleep. I listen to their s/t almost daily.

On the theme “Baker’s Dozen”, what do you have cooking for the rest of 2013 and into early 2014? Give us a virtual taste of what we can expect from you.

2013 will finish up with: Bone Dance "Snakecharmers" 12" USA pressing, Calculator "These Roots Grow Deep" LP repress, Capacities/Calculator/Innards/Itto 4-way split LP, debut full-length from a Florida Hardcore band I've worked with previously, debut full-length from a dark 'n heavy unannounced band, and  The Banner "Born to Ruin" pt. 1.
2014: New LP from an unannounced band, new LP from a NJ band I've worked with previously, debut LP from a CA band I've worked with previously, hopefully dying young because I've lived just so damn fast.


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